You can't fix it if you don't know what's wrong with it

By Seamus Byrne in Media News on
There's a well-known trust deficit in the media world today. As individual journalists, we can claim our adherence to the highest ethical standards, but we know as an industry there's plenty of work out there that's a mix of poorly labelled paid content or 'grey area' quid pro quo that weakens the claim to integrity.
 
Of course, there are also the anti-cheerleaders, who refuse to write anything positive because they don't want to ever accidentally 'promote' something. The hunt for what's wrong with something, the need to nitpick, overpowering the fundamental mission to inform. The leg up, intentional or not, to a sales department that stresses there's only one way to see something positive about yourself around here: $$$.
 
But worse than any of this is just the sleepy middle road of boring words. Time-poor quota-chasing writers need to cling to coverage-by-template to hit their numbers, with the odd flash of a clever anecdote or a meme graphic to liven things up a bit.
 
I'm sure over the past two decades I've slipped into more than one of these areas from time to time. The problem isn't really that any one kind of editorial exists. It's that not enough of the 'good stuff' gets the chance to shine through and win the heart of a reader, a listener, or a viewer.
 
Influencers (and I don't use that as a pejorative) are growing in popularity— and, yes, influence —by throwing out the claim to objectivity and embracing their personal preferences and biases, it feels more important than ever to remember which relationship most needs attention. How have you cultivated the trust of your audience? 
 
I heard influencers described as "professional amateurs" the other day. It's an interesting perspective. They bring their very personal selves to their work. The human is entirely present as part of what they do. And that's what their audiences love.
 
#Change: with or without you
 
So much of the world has changed around traditional journalism. And most of the changes in journalism have been the wrong kind. The clickbait. The shock tactics. The puffery. The wrong kinds of 'engagement' chasing.
 
Meanwhile, one of the biggest things that hasn't changed— the cold, impassive view from nowhere —is one of the critical reasons readers find us all so interchangeable. A report is a report is a report.
 
What exactly is it about you, about your words, your approach, your perspective, that means someone should bother not just stumbling across your work, but actively seek you out? If someone is going to reflexively scroll past a thousand links and thought bubbles today, why should they stop to read yours? What have you done to prove you're worth their precious time?
 
Because you need to prove it. Your audience deserves your effort to prove you want to earn their loyalty.
 
Where's the purpose?
 
Lately I've been pushing myself and others to use the internet with more intention. Less scrolling, less reflex, more forethought. To ask the question 'am I doing this on purpose' a little more often while staring at a screen.
 
We need to ask ourselves more often if we're doing what we do with a sense of purpose. This doesn't mean every story has to change the world. But every story should have a point.
 
One of my favourite quotes that I think about often when I'm failing to tidy my house is from the great 19th century designer William Morris.
 
"Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful."
 
I think we could apply this idea equally to our writing. Is it useful? Is it beautiful? If it's one of these things it has a good chance of serving a reader well – to inform or to delight. If it's both? Congratulations!
 
The PR factor
 
In light of all this, one of the biggest problems in PR interactions is that they're often aiming to serve the paint-by-numbers approach.
 
"There's a new thing. Please write about the new thing. Here are the details of the thing. No, there's no one available to talk about the thing. No, you can't see the thing yet yourself."
 
I've had many an interaction where I've asked for PR to help me build a fun, unique, different angle to talk about something, and the PR staff are keen. But then the PR enthusiasm is filtered through corporate reluctance, and the clever idea goes nowhere. After all - what if something goes wrong? Better we just focus on the easier route where we just get journalists to say a new thing exists.
 
So from the PR perspective, what can you do to open the door to smarter coverage? It's annoying enough when there's not even anyone to interview on launch day. Canned quotes are helpful spack filler in a desperate hunt for 300 template words, but they’re not meat for a quality offering. But when someone has an angle and wants to really dive into what your client has to offer? What can you do to help make something truly useful or beautiful?
 
There's a trust deficit out there today. I don't think winning trust back starts by claiming to be more objective than ever, or be more righteous in our indignation in what audiences are choosing to do instead of reading our gospel.
 
We need to give them more stuff worthy of their precious attention. That has a real voice, offering real perspective and insight, and makes someone get to the end feeling better for having stopped by.
 
This probably isn't one of those articles. But I'm trying every day to get there. And if we all try to disengage autopilot a little more, we’ll be heading in the right direction.
 

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Triple M sport shows stay on air

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The Triple M Network’s AFL and NRL-oriented shows are still set for broadcast despite the COVID-19 situation.

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3AW fixes AFL weekend broadcast schedule

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News Corp Australia adds COVID-19 daily content

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The eight-page section (pictured) aims to guide readers coping with the pandemic on issues such as healthcare, education and jobs, and the economy. The main angle in today’s edition, for example, showcases family activities to occupy children in light of the government’s recommendation for kids to be kept home from school. 

News Corp Australia aims to sync regional publications and digital channels with HiberNation material in the immediate future.    

“No story we’ve ever told has been so big, so rapid to evolve or so widespread. The content changes launched today reflect the scale and impact that all Australians are feeling due to this unfolding crisis. Our readers are turning to us in record numbers for advice and we’re

PacMags sale to Bauer Media OK’d

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Bauer Media has been given the ACCC’s approval to acquire Pacific Magazines from Seven West Media.

The watchdog stated that Bauer’s $40m offer would not lessen competition as some of the content on both Bauer and Pacific’s titles are acquired from other sources. The negotiations began in October 2019, with part of the deal seeing Bauer pay Seven West Media $6.6m in advertising rights fees over the next three years, on top of the $40m cash offer. 

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Former radio presenter Stuart Cranney is dead at 65 years old.

The Triple M Network announced that he passed from a year-long bout with cancer. 

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